I’m going to be completely honest. I was worried that the crowd at this Knife Party show would kill my opinion of the show itself. I was worried that I would run into a Coachella-Lite type of experience, and I’d be dealing with neon day-glo tank top wearing bros who only came to rage out. I have never been so happy to have my expectations proven wrong.
While a lot of EDM acts will have massive, sell-out arena stage spectacles, Knife Party elected to have their show in a relatively intimate venue: Mezzanine. The strange thing about Mezzanine is that it feels more like a nightclub than a music venue. The stage is set up in a small corner, the second floor is sealed off for VIP members, and the bouncers outside are suited up like you’d see outside of a Vegas club. But what Mezzanine has going for it is its small size, and when it comes to hosting an act like Knife Party, this is definitely a major plus.
Trying to contain that much sound in a small venue presents a unique set of challenges, not the least of which saw Rob Swire dealing with some serious technical issues at the beginning of the show. One of the mixers wasn’t working properly, so about ten minutes into the set, he did his best Geek Squad impression, unplugging and plugging in different network cables, throwing busted ones into the crowd. Gareth McGrillen did his best to keep the show going, but eventually the show ground to a halt while they figured things out.
I thought this would be how I died. This moment would be when the crowd turned on the pair of DJs, where I’d get crushed against a railing because everyone was so amped up but there was no music playing, so there was nothing holding them down. But I was surprised to find out that not only was I not being crushed to death, the crowd around me was actually calm. Not a single person was chanting or getting angry, everyone was just excitedly talking to each other. Even a few of the people up front tried to help Swire out with tech support, as much as they could from 10 feet away. This entire time I was turned around watching the crowd because in all honesty, that crowd was what made the show for me.
As soon as the show fired back up, it quickly gained steam and there was no stopping it. They played a big chunk of their newest album, Abandon Ship, and were able to even work in an interlude with a remixed Red Hot Chili Peppers track, “By The Way.” There’s no way to not sing along to quick hit remix breaks like this. Most crowds at electronic shows begin to flag around the one hour mark. So when the beat drops and the opening chords of “By The Way” twang out over the crowd, it’s like a breath of fresh, nostalgic air. Everyone’s singing along, and the energy in the room begins to shoot up. Because that’s how RHCP does.
The lights cut out. The sound of heels walking on a hardwood floor echoed off the walls. Then a doorbell. Then a window smashing. And finally, a ringtone. “You blocked me on Facebook,” said a woman’s disembodied voice. The audience responded in kind. “Now you’re going to die!” Arguably one of Knife Party’s greatest hits, “Internet Friends,” capped off the end of a resurgence of energy from the entire crowd. This song was what brought me into the Knife Party fold, and its clever beat combined with the almost dentist drill-sounding trills are what continue to stick with me to this day.
No good party lacks champagne. And I guess McGrillen thought the audience looked a little thirsty. So right before the set ended, he stepped out from behind the darkened booth, bathed in red light, a large bottle of stars held aloft. He went from one side of the stage to the other, trying to feel out who needed a shower more. And like so many things that night, I was surprised (and not surprised) that it only took a moment for him to pop open the bottle right over my head and everyone immediately around me.
Knife Party had long been an entry in my live show bucket list that I was sure would remain unrealized. I boarded the Knife Party train a little too late to catch them on their very first tour, and I was too broke the second time around. I even missed out on them at Coachella, in favor of a show I can’t even remember. On this night, a chilly night in January, I found one of my dreams fulfilled, and in an incredibly smashing way. What I’m beginning to learn is that part of what makes EDM shows so exciting are the crowds. The music is amazing, and an experience to behold, but the experience is formed in no small part by the people immediately around you. I feel lucky in saying that this night was amazing, and I have not just two amazing artists to thank, but the incredibly kind fan club that surround them.